Merry Christmas

A very merry Christmas to all of the people who have read and commented on the blog over the year—and goodwill to all mankind. Knowing that others have the opportunity to encounter and engage with these ideas is what makes the writing really worthwhile.

An Encounter With Clarke Micah

The Hated Peter Hitchens today ventured “below the line” to engage with your humble host on Twitter. His comments are well worth reproducing here as they allow me the opportunity to clarify several points.

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David Cameron is “negotiating” very little. The Prime Minister’s proposals for “reform” conform to pre-existing EU plans to create a “two-tier Europe”. These changes—most clearly defined in the Bertelsmann/Spinelli Group, A Fundamental Law of the European Union—have been obliquely referenced by multiple sources (See: here and here) over recent weeks. Indeed, these changes are effectively “baked into the cake” and are likely to be part of Jean-Claude Junker’s Spring 2017 White Paper, which will signal the start of the next treaty revision procedure.

Second-class EU membership is what Mr Cameron will accept because that is what the EU is willing to offer.

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With respect to what Mr Cameron has “claimed”, Brexiteers should be extremely careful. Prompted by Mr Hitchens’ comment, I have just re-read both Mr Cameron’s Bloomberg speech and his Chatham House speech and nowhere in either does the Prime Minister say that his aim is “to get a reduction of EU powers over us”. The closest that David Cameron comes to such a sentiment is in his Bloomberg speech (the earlier of the two), during which he said:

My third principle is that power must be able to flow back to Member States, not just away from them. This was promised by European Leaders at Laeken a decade ago.

This statement says more about Mr Cameron’s ignorance regarding the method of engrenage (or “gearing”) through which the European Union pursues “ever closer union” than anything else. Regardless, this aim could all too easily be fulfilled via concessions in the area of fisheries or agriculture or employment policy.

To the best of my knowledge, this point has not been mentioned since.

On the contrary, Mr Cameron has repeatedly emphasised the aim of agreeing a “new relationship” intended to keep Britain in a “reformed EU”.

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To that end, Mr Hitchens demonstrates a clear view of what “associate membership” would mean for Britain—“second-class membership”—but it is not Mr Hitchens nor myself that Mr Cameron nor the Brexiteers need to convince in order to win a national referendum.

Mr Cameron will not present this “new relationship” as “associate membership”. In his Chatham House speech, Mr Cameron talked about “British model” membership—a role that would affirm Britain’s committment to the EU’s “values” while absolving the country from “ever closer union” and euro involvement. Unless the Brexiteers can get ahead of the game and acknowledge that Mr Cameron is quite likely to achieve “fundamental change”—albeit not of the kind that we support—it is all too possible that enough of the electorate, egged on by an almost uniformly conformist press pack, will be so surprised that Mr Cameron has achieved anything that the deal will be regarded as “good enough”.

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I think that the “stay in” case is less about the “influence” that we supposedly get and more about the “risk” associated with leaving. The existence of hundreds of intergovernmental bodies “above” the EU, in which Britain has to accept the compromise position of the EU28, rather than enjoying independent self-representation, means that the “influence” case is practically non-existent.

This is why Brexiteers need to focus on demonstrating that not only is giving a mandate to further supranational governance extremely risky, but leaving the EU offers a better alternative that is both achievable and safe.

Cameron’s Proposals For “Reform” Are Not “Trivial”

I have serious difficulty understanding the perspective of some of those involved in the EU “renegotiation” debate. I am not sure what they are even trying to say, much of the time, although, to be fair, based upon the persistence with which I make certain points—without any perceptible sign of recognition—I do not doubt that the feeling is mutual.

For instance, the inconsistent Iain Martin, who in May wrote about the Chancellor’s desire to “go long” on the EU “renegotiation” so as to allow more time to secure a deal that would keep Britain in a “reformed EU”, but who now writes that the “moment of opportunity” to agree that “new relationship” is gone. Mr Martin offers no explanation why what he describes in his earlier article as the “historic prize” of a two-tier European Union is no longer on offer. Indeed, his assertion is particularly perplexing in the sense that Mr Cameron’s proposals for “reform” mesh almost exactly with a pre-existing EU plan to create a two-tier EU in which Britain is a second-class member.

Far more important, however, is Dominic Cummings’ scatter-gun campaigning. As Campaign Manager for Vote Leave Ltd., Mr Cummings should be helping to direct legacy journos who have so far struggled to comprehend Mr Cameron’s strategy towards a clear understanding of what has been labelled The Cameron Deception.

There are many things to be said about Mr Cummings’ performance to date—some of which I have said already; others of which I shall leave for future posts. For the sake of brevity, this post will focus on just one small point: is the man that several in the tame Tory media have garlanded as a “genius” just a little bit dim?

I have shied away from this assessment in the past, thinking that one who has worked within the machine of government—whatever else one may think of them—cannot be short a few brain cells. However, the following is causing me to reassess:

It is because I do read Vote Leave’s stuff that I am in a position to criticise. Based upon the above comment, one wonders: Does Mr Cumming’s read Vote Leave’s stuff?

On Monday, Vote Leave’s “Campaign News” posting said: “David Cameron’s demands are trivial. All the spin is to lower expectations so Downing Street can claim the final deal is ‘a triumph for the Prime Minister’.”

Perhaps I am the one who is missing something—if that is the case, I should like someone to point it out—but does describing the Prime Minister’s proposals (not “demands”) as “trivial” not contribute towards “lower expectations”?

I may be wrong, but I do not believe that the “expectations game”, as Mr Cummings describes it, is best served by describing the PM’s proposals as “trivial”. Not only do I think that such comments are strategically mistaken, from a campaign perspective, I think that there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that such assertions are factually mistaken, from a… factual perspective.

For the sake of clarity, I shall say again, as plainly as I know how: David Cameron’s proposals for “reform” are not “trivial”. Not to say that the “renegotiation” is something that I support. Far from it. I think that in many ways David Cameron is doing less to protect the British national interest than Edward Heath, who negotiated Britain’s entry into the then European Economic Community (EEC).

The entire “renegotiation” (not just part of it) is an exercise in getting people looking the other way, “debating” anything other than leaving the EU. It is past time that the “reforms” became a matter for the “remainers”. Brexiteers are not interested in a few more crumbs from the EU table, we want to take our seat at the global top table and enjoy a full cake.

Unreal Reporting

Based upon the hit rate for my last couple of posts—noting the inadequacy of Britain’s legacy media—if I wanted to be popular I would find a different topic to blog about. But because I think that this is important I shall persist.

The latest piece of unreality is a scarcely comprehensible article by Zoe Williams in The Guardian—I can make neither head nor tail of what she is even trying to say. The headline, however, is clear enough: “There is no master plan. On the EU, David Cameron is flailing”.

To that end, Ms Williams has the situation almost completely backwards. A psychologist might suggest that she is indulging in “projection”. It is not Mr Cameron who lacks a “masterplan”, but Ms Williams who lacks the knowledge or the background—the intellectual framework—to percieve such a sophisticated “play”.

For David Cameron certainly has a plan. Mr Cameron is fitting his “renegotiation” into a pre-existing EU plan to create a “two-tier Europe” in which the eurozone countries integrate further while the “outer zone” is given an exemption from “ever closer union”. Mr Cameron intends to claim that this new “British model of membership” (Chatham House speech) was his idea all along.

This “new relationship” will not resolve any of the problems associated with supranational governance—British institutions will still be subordinate to those of the EU and Britain will continue to accept the “common position” in intergovernmental forums “above” the EU—but it may just be enough to convince the “moderate middle” that Britain’s relationship with the EU has been successfully resolved.

Delving into the text itself, there is this diamond:

Whenever chaos sprays off Whitehall like sparks from an angle-grinder, one looks for the ulterior motive. This can’t be incompetence: there must be some elaborate plan to paint Cameron as David to the EU’s Goliath, some switcheroo that the lesser mind can’t anticipate, where he loses the battle but wins the war. Is the PM really an “out” on Europe, masquerading as an “in”? Is depicting migration as an insoluble national disaster part of his master plan, a bid to look like the man who tried to save the union but was thwarted by its rigidity? It might be plausible, but for the many facets of this idea’s egregiousness.

Ms Williams is not far off when she talks about Mr Cameron casting himself as David (yes, I know) to the EU’s Goliath. Unfortunately, she only introduces the idea in order to dismiss it, to say nothing of the fact that she still seems unsure about whether David Cameron will campaign for “leave” or “remain”… o_0

The current fisticuffs over migrant benefits are not serious. This is about expectation management. In any story about Overcoming The Monster, the Hero must first lose a few Battles in order that his final Victory be that much more Triumphant. There will be a lot more Theatre before Mr Cameron unveils his shiny new “British model” just prior to the referendum in 2017.

At that time, I suspect legacy journos, such as Ms Williams, will be bowled over by the “fundamental change” that David Cameron has achieved, which will in fact be no more than the “new relationship” intended to keep Britain in a “reformed EU” that Mr Cameron has stated as his aim ever since the start of the “renegotiation”.

Consistently Inconsistent

In a remarkably reserved piece on EUReferendum.com, Dr Richard North, writes about the British legacy media’s “humiliating retreat from journalism”. This, to mind mind, is to seriously understate the depth of the problem that afflicts Britain’s “fourth estate”. The thought that the legacy news-media are even in the business of journalism gives many of those “above the line” too much credit. Open a newspaper or turn on a television set and one rarely alights upon reasonable men and women discussing and debating the issues of the day. Far more common is the spectacle of verbal sadists bashing seven bells out of anybody who does not accept the establishment point of view.

Regrettably, the analysis that these people provide is even worse. Ignoring the fact that a June 2016 referendum cannot and therefore will not happen, Iain Martin recently wrote an article for CapX in which he calls for precisely that. The basis for the recommendation is his perception that the Prime Minister will not be able to successfully secure the “fundamental change” that was his stated aim at the start of the EU “renegotiation”.

For an indication as to why a 2016 referendum was unlikely—before it became next to impossible—one need only read none other than Iain Martin, writing in The Telegraph in May 2015. There, Mr Martin tells us: “The word is that the pro-EU Mr Llewellyn [the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff] favours attempting a quicker renegotiation, capitalising on Mr Cameron’s electoral honeymoon and enabling the EU to sign off on a deal later this year or early next. That would mean a referendum in the spring of 2016”.

This, it will not have escaped anybody’s notice is almost precisely what Mr Martin suggests should happen in his latest piece for CapX, in which Mr Martin explains: “When the Prime Minister announced before the last election that he planned a renegotiation and then a vote on the results, it was possible a two-speed EU would be properly on offer. That moment of opportunity is gone. The referendum is what it is – in or out, remain or leave. It is time for the UK government to get on with it, so that Britain (and Europe) can get on with what comes afterwards.”

In his earlier piece for The Telegraph, however, Mr Martin also hinted at an alternative course. Alerting his readers to the fact that a “minimal renegotiation, with so few concessions” could lead the Prime Minister to be compared with Harold Wilson, who conducted a “sham renegotiation” (Mr Martin’s words) ahead of the vote in 1975, Mr Martin informs us: “Not for the first time, the Treasury takes a different view from No 10 and is pushing ministers to play it long if necessary… George Osborne, I understand, agrees. Furthermore, the Chancellor is arguing, quite rightly, that there is a genuine chance here of securing a historic prize, the fabled two-tier European Union, with an inner core of countries in the eurozone integrating more closely (as the Germans want) while the outer tier gets a looser arrangement that still preserves the single market, a British creation”.

Leaving aside the absurd assertion that the Single Market was “a British creation”, placing the two articles—the first published in May 2015 and the second published in December 2015—side by side, one is inclined to wonder what it was that convinced Mr Martin that the “historic prize” of a two-tier European Union is no longer on offer?

Could it be that Mr Martin has failed to observe that Mr Cameron’s proposals for “reform” accord precisely with the framework for the “associate membership” position, most recently described by Spinelli Group member, Guy Verhofstadt, for the benefit of Channel Four News viewers? Has Mr Martin, a man who says that he has read EUReferendum.com “many times”, not noted the numerous references to “associate membership”—and Mr Cameron’s likely framing of the deal as “a British model of membership”—made by Dr Richard North on that website and echoed on like-minded blogs?

Maybe Mr Martin did not understand what he was writing in May 2015, when he highlighted the Chancellor’s desire to go long on the “renegotiation” and hold the referendum in the later half of 2017. Maybe Mr Martin is unaware that the Prime Minister’s proposals mesh almost exactly with a pre-existing EU plan to create a two-tier EU in which Britain is a second-class member. Or Maybe Mr Martin is indulging in a bit of expectation management.

Perhaps the following sentence from Mr Martin’s CapX article suggests an answer (my emphasis):

It is going to come down to a binary choice between staying in the European Union, largely unchanged because serious reform on the British model is unlikely, and leaving to forge a new, looser relationship with our European partners.

Whether or not Mr Martin is truly incapable of seeing what is as plain as the nose on his face, I do not see why such an individual should be regarded as a serious Brexit commentator.

F For Fail

I despair of the British legacy media. Rather than inform themselves about the EU renegotiation by reading sources who understand how the EU works and how David Cameron’s EU “renegotiation” is likely to play out, these self-important parasites read only one another and publish articles that add to the confusion that they create in the first place.

Occassionally, one of the flock will emit something half-way sensible—law of averages, I guess. Borrowing the collective brain-cell this weekend is CapX editor, Iain Martin, who regails us with the above, to which my response is: Yes, go on, and…?

In an effort to encourage the slow kid to arrive at an answer of his own accord, here are a few questions for Iain Martin and his ilk:

  1. Do you think that David Cameron will campaign for Britain to leave the EU under any circumstances?
  2. Do you think that David Cameron intends to win the EU referendum when he campaigns for the “remains”?
  3. Would a “four year migrant benefit ban” be sufficient to convince a majority of the British electorate to support continuing EU membership for Britain and win the referendum for David Cameron and the “remains”?
  4. Did David Cameron’s letter to European Council President, Donald Tusk, set out more proposals than just a “four year migrant benefit ban”?
  5. Do you think there could be more to the “renegotiation” ploy than just a “four year migrant benefit ban”? Didn’t it say as much in the letter that you and your colleagues dismissed as “trivial” only last week? Well, what do you think?

If British journalists had half a brain they’d be dangerous.

The Story So Far…

Following the EU referendum debate is often far from straightforward, especially when Britain’s inadequate legacy media is committed to false narratives that add to the confusion rather than increasing clarity.

Here is a quick recap of what I think is going on, with due deference to the exemplary research and peerless domain knowledge of Dr Richard North on EUReferendum.com and Pete North on Pete North’s Politics Blog, whose work provides a great deal of the background for the following posts.

When pro-EU commentators such as Andrew Lilico are in the business of lowering expectations one has to wonder why Brexiteers think it is a good idea to do likewise.

  • Lowering expectations will only make David Cameron’s final victory appear all the more triumphant – Overcoming The Monster
  • Especially when he over-delivers and presents referendum voters with a “new relationship” intended to keep Britain in a “reformed EU” – A New Relationship
  • Contrary to what the legacy media is now saying (they will change their tune without so much as a blush), the “reforms” will be genuine – The British Model
  • The reason that this can be asserted with such confidence is that Cameron’s entire “rengotiation” “play” is about passing off pre-existing EU plans for a more “flexible” form of European Union as a British idea and specifically as his ideaCameron In Context
  • Cameron is such an extreme Remainer that he is willing to accept a deal that even Edward Heath rejected, if that is what it takes to keep Britain in the EU and win the referendum for the “remains” – Counter Narrative
  • Fortunately, the Brexiteers have a better alternative that is both achievable and safe, provided that we can maintain our discipline and agree on a target.